Tara recently joined our team as a designer, illustrator, and animator. Here are some fun facts about Tara that we’ve learned during her first few weeks.

Tara Espenshade, Interactive Designer at Interactive Mechanics

1. What did you do before joining Interactive Mechanics?

I’ve technically been in the design field since I was 7 years old, when I was helping my mom install models for luxury high rises and condominiums throughout the tristate area. I started my interactive design career after graduation right here in Philadelphia working for a boutique digital firm in Old City. Ready to see more of the USA, I moved to Austin with my cousin and freelanced as a graphic designer and creative director for a local craft beer bar. But the Texas heat proved to be more than I bargained for and I set my sites back on Philly. I fell a couple states short and took a job as a Design Assistant to an interior designer in Baltimore, but eventually got myself back north of Mason-Dixon line and in Philly again at last.

2. How did you get into interactive design?

I have always be amazed by the power and universality of art. It’s a language that needs no translation, only the ability to experience it. I love that art can be used to educate, inspire, and clarify concepts where words can fall flat. Making beautiful visual experiences that a viewer can explore just seemed a natural extension of my desire to “make art that does good in the world.”

3. What’s your go-to place to spark your creativity?

Almighty Mother Nature. Sometimes you just have to go out on a hike, or visit a beautiful arboretum (I personally am obsessed with Longwood Gardens), and suddenly you see inspiring new patterns or come across an ingenious way nature has adapted to keep thriving. It can make you look at even the most technical, abstract problems in a new light.

4. What did you love about the last museum you visited?

I went to the Salem Witch Museum in Massachusetts recently, and I found myself enthralled with what many would consider a “dated” display. The museum’s main exhibit is a dark room in which you sit on wooden benches and look up at life-sized wax figures set in scenes depicting the Salem witch trials. A pre-recorded male voice, who sounds like he took his cues from every sixties horror flick ever, details the history of the trials, and different scenes light up, complete with atmospheric sound effects and dialogue. You’re left with a warning about mass hysteria and fanaticism, much in the same vein as the ending of a Twilight Zone episode. I could have sat through the whole thing a million times and not gotten bored. I think it was a good reminder to never underestimate the impact of a physical exhibit space. (And maybe toss in some 60’s Hollywood production tactics.)

Tara Espenshade at the Salem Witch Museum

5. What’s your favorite spot in Philadelphia?

30th Street Station (I know, I know — not everyone is feeling a terrible fondness for Septa at the moment). But every time I’m in that space I am mesmerized by the architecture and Art Deco influences. It’s unusual to find modern public spaces with so much rich detail and care given to even the smallest aspects. It’s an enormous, vaulting building, but it never feels cold or unwelcoming, maybe because there always people coming and going. The opportunity to travel, particularly on a train, brings a unique energy to a space. Whenever I’m at 30th Street I feel like I can go anywhere and I just become energized by the possibilities.